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Opposition wants public meeting to discuss year-end bonus issue

By Enru Lin--The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) headquarters yesterday applied greater pressure on the year-end bonus issue, calling on President Ma Ying-jeou to open a national affairs conference (國是會議), a format of public meeting that hails from the Lee Teng-hui administration.

In 1990, then-President Lee called Taiwan's first national affairs conference after public discontent over Kuomintang (KMT) rule triggered a six-day street demonstration. The meeting, which focused on options for political reform, included some 140 independent public figures and politicians from both sides of the partisan divide.

DPP headquarters yesterday called on Ma to repeat Lee's 1990 gesture.

The nation faces financial insolvency, while controversies over the year-end bonus and the government's insurance programs continue to escalate. These issues cannot be resolved internally, as they are linked to every citizen's welfare, said DPP spokesman Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲).

“The DPP's proposition is very clear,” said Lin. “We want President Ma Ying-jeou to call a national affairs conference as soon as possible, as Taiwan faces financial insolvency.”

Lin said that an appropriate resolution cannot be struck in the Legislature alone, or through talks between Ma and DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang.

“We need to focus the will of the people and the powers of society to develop strategies. It's not just an issue between the two leaders of Taiwan's political parties,” said Lin.

Former DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen was first to propose that Ma open a national affairs conference on the year-end bonus issue. The forum can help defuse an increasingly volatile controversy, Tsai said last Friday in her capacity as a private citizen.

The Presidential Office responded that the likelihood of organizing the meet is low. Discussions and a resolution on the year-end bonus issue should occur within the Legislative Yuan, but Ma's willingness to meet with the DPP chairman remains unchanged, according to the presidential spokesman.

In October, Premier Sean Chen issued an informal recommendation that the Legislature cancel the year-end bonus for most retired teachers, military personnel and civil servants. The statement has triggered ire from veterans and other retirees, as well as from legislators who accused the Cabinet of “passing the buck.”

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